Elias Viljanen -
Taking The Lead

(CD 2011, 43:12, Lion Music LMC306)

The tracks:
  1- Evoke The Spirit
  2- Evil Rock
  3- The Axemaster
  4- I Go Solo
  5- Northern Breeze
  6- Beyond Twilight
  7- Taking The Lead
  8- A Dream Come True
  9- Hyper-Boogie
10- Written In Stars
11- Passion For Glory
12- Speed Of The Devil

Elias Viljanen Website        samples        Lion Music

Before Elias Viljanen joined the Finnish progressive metal band Sonata Arctica, he already made a name as a solo artist. Taking The Lead, his first solo album released in 2002 on the Lion Music label, was a refreshing acquaintance with this guitarist, who combines technique with feeling. I immediately knew this was a special album. Now after nine years Lion Music has re-released the album, but this time with an additional DVD to honour this appreciated guitar album. Unfortunately I can only review the CD since the DVD wasn't included in the promo package...

To be honest I haven't listened to this album for quite a while, and I really felt bad when I listened again to my old 2002 copy to check out for differences with this reissue. Man, this album is way too good to be forgotten! In my opinion instrumental guitar music is almost timeless. Check heavy rockers like The Axemaster, Taking The Lead or Speed Of The Devil. These are power driven instrumentals with a real rhythm-section and very impressive and technical skilled guitar playing. From the slower songs I like I Go Solo, A Dream Come True and Beyond Twilight on which influences of Joe Satriani can be heard. It isn't that surprising since Satriani was then and still is an impressive guitar shredder who has been a major model for a whole new generation of guitarists. Northern Breeze has a nice Celtic feel combined with the techniques of Eddie van Halen.

Together with bass player Rami Herckman, drummer Tomi Ylönen and keyboarders Tero Ylönen and Jani Kemppinen, Elias Viljanen created an album full of virtuosity, high quality songs and stunning melodies. Sonata Arctica must be very pleased with such a composer and virtuoso guitarist in their ranks. For me his instrumental album is his most impressive. After Taking The Lead Viljanen recorded Leadstar (2005) and Fire Hearted (2009). I surely hope he'll find the time to write a new instrumental album. The reissue of his debut shows he has the talents and the skills to provide us with another masterpiece.

**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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